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Hopak Ч martial art and a dance


Hopak is a traditional Ukrainian dance whose roots go deep down into the Ukrainian history. It is a very energetic dance performed by men. One of the variants of this dance is called Boyovy Hopak, that is Martial Hopak. To qualify for performing it, you must be physically robust, be able to use sabre and other arms well, sing well, play musical instruments, know the art of oratory, and be good in versifying. Also, you have to be fluent in foreign languages and keep constantly improving your cultural background and maintain high your intellectual and spiritual capacities.


Dance used to have many functions, ritual being one of them. Nowadays, dancing is hardly more than a pleasant pastime for most people, but even if you do not think of dancing in terms of a vigorous physical exercise, it remains to be such an exercise because performing any dance you have to be moving, and moving vigorously, using not only your legs but arms and the whole body.

Martial elements are present in many Ukrainian dances. In this respect, Ukrainian dances are not unique Ч martial elements can be found in dances of other nations, for example, in Japan, Georgia, or Brazil.

In Ukraine, martial hopak was closely associated with a system of educating and training good warriors. Hopak performers were supposed to possess much more than physical stamina and mastery of arms, singing and versifying being among the things they had to know.

Historical evidence shows that many prominent Cossacks and Cossack leaders such as Ivan Sirko, Bohdan Khmelnytsky or Ivan Mazepa, could dance hopak well; they knew several foreign languages, composed music and wrote verses extolling the Ukrainian spirit.

Nowadays, martial hopak remains to be a useful physical exercise excellent for improving health, strength and pliancy. Hopak dancers participate in various folk dance shows and festivals which are held both in Ukraine and elsewhere. Incidentally, hopak dancers make good soldiers and policemen.

Martial hopak dance festivals are regularly held in Ukraine, usually in spring. They attract large audiences. In addition to festivals, all kinds of martial hopak competitions are organized at the local levels and at the All-Ukraine level. There are schools in Ukraine that train students in martial hopak. The International Federation of Martial Hopak, executive committees, councils and other martial hopak management bodies coordinate the hopak-related activities, training and completions. Summer seminars are held in many parts of Ukraine, and boat trips down the Dnipro River are regular summer events too.

Ukrainian martial hopak performers take part in international martial art festivals at which they have won many prizes.

Martial hopak is practised not only in Ukraine but outside its borders as well Ч in Russia, Canada, Portugal, Great Britain, Italy, Poland and other countries.


By Volodymyr SHERSTYUK,

President of the Kyiv Federation of Martial Hopak


More details at the Kyiv Federation

of Martial Hopak official website:











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